For the past decade or more I have advanced the idea that a proactive lifestyle can be beneficial to the human brain. I have not been the only one to discuss or study this point, but it remains a central focus of my work. There has been a rather robust collection of studies that have shown correlations between particular lifestyle behaviors and reduction in the risk of dementia. It was from these studies that I published my own proactive brain health lifestyle ® to include physical activity, socialization, spirituality, nutrition, and mental stimulation.
Criticism against the existing research on lifestyle and risk reduction of dementia has generally been that more controlled and randomized studies are needed to move from the correlational to the cause and effect. This is fair and represents ongoing efforts by many to show such a cause and effect. Lifestyle does matter for the brain as it does for the rest of our body.
A new study to be published in Lancet Neurology provides the latest support for lifestyle and reduction in risk of dementia, including AD. Indeed, according to this study, about half of the risk factors for AD are potentially changeable and that reducing them could substantially decrease the number of new cases of the disease worldwide.
Factors that increase one’s risk for AD that are modifiable include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking, sedentary behavior, depression, and low education level. In the United States, the most significant modifiable factor is physical activity accounting for 21% of the risk for AD, followed by depression and smoking. Added together, the three factors account for 50% of the risk.
The authors of this study indicate that if these risk factors were decreased by just 10%, about 184,000 AD cases in the U.S. and 1.1 million cases worldwide could be prevented. A reduction of 25% on all seven risk factors could prevent nearly half a million cases in the U.S. and more than three million world-wide.
With 5 million cases of AD in the U.S. and nearly 35 million in the world, this analysis is significant as maybe as many as 50% of all AD cases could be modifiable and that by changing the risk factors increased quality of life could be achieved. This and more research will be published to further support the importance of a proactive brain health lifestyle for everyone.